US Senate Looks To Limit Big Tech Companies’ Acquisitions

US Senator Amy Klobuchar. Image credit: US Senate

Bill introduced in US Senate would make it easier for regulators to block deals they see as anticompetitive by placing burden of proof on big tech firms

A bill that could make it more difficult for large tech companies to make acquisitions has been introduced into the US Senate.

The bipartisan bill, introduced by Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar, head of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel, and  Republican Tom Cotton, would make it easier for the government to block deals it believes infringe competition law.

The bill would require companies in disputed cases to prove the deals are good for competition, rather than requiring regulators to prove the deal is illegal.

It is aimed at the biggest tech companies, such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook or Google.

Credit: US Senate‘Anticompetitive’ acquisitions

“We’re increasingly seeing companies choose to buy their rivals rather than compete,” said Klobuchar in a statement.

“This bipartisan legislation will put an end to those anticompetitive acquisitions by making it more difficult for dominant digital platforms to eliminate their competitors and enhance the platform’s market power.”

A similar bill has been approved in the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee and awaits a vote by the House.

In October Klobuchar and others introduced a separate bill that would block large tech companies from favouring their own products or services in marketplaces they operate, targeting companies such as Amazon or Apple.

A similar bill introduced earlier by House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee chairman David Cicilline and others was voted out of the House Judiciary Committee this summer.

Market power

The Computer and Communications Industry Association, a tech industry body, said the Senate self-preferencing bill would “hold back US companies” as they compete with China, Russia and other countries.

Other recent bills have sought to place limits on large tech companies’ market power, but so far none has become law.

Senator Klobuchar told a conference at the time that documents disclosed by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen have given a boost to Congressional efforts at tightening regulation.

Haugen has testified before the Senate and the British Parliament on the need for tech regulation.

“This isn’t just big company versus big company, these are real people and it’s our democracy at stake here,” Klobuchar told the Wall Street Journal’s Tech Live conference.